The great state of Colorado just got a little bit greater after a federal judge handed down a ruling that allows women to expose their breasts without facing criminal penalties.
In November 2015 Fort Collins enacted an ordinance prohibiting women from exposing their breasts in public or on private property, if the private property can be viewed by someone on public property. Violation of the ordinance carried a fine of up to $2,650 or imprisonment up to 180 days.
A Colorado federal court judge has granted an injunction against a city ordinance that prohibited women from showing their breasts in public. The judge argued the ordinance discriminated against women and perpetuated the stereotype that sexualizes female breasts.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 23, 2017
Free the Nipple, an association of Colorado residents who advocate for gender equality protested the ordinance in a public protest with nothing but “opaque dressings” covering their nipples.
The Fort Collins City Council asked the public input, and made two exceptions, breastfeeding mothers and girls younger than 10 years old.
Free the Nipple filed for a preliminary injunction in May 2016 alleging the public nudity ordinance was one of the most restrictive in the nation.
“It’s sexist because it specifically discriminates against females’ breasts,” Brittany Hoagland of Free the Nipple, argued in 2015.
— Denver Colorado (@colorado_denver) February 23, 2017
In his decision, Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled against the city’s claim that the law maintained public order and protected children.
“I find the ordinance discriminates against women based on the generalized notion that, regardless of a woman’s intent, the exposure of her breasts in public (or even in her private home if viewable by the public) is necessarily a sexualized act,” US District Court Judge Jackson wrote, granting the injunction on Wednesday, according to the Denver Post. “Thus, it perpetuates a stereotype ingrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexually desire whereas male breasts are not.”
While the case will continue, the Judge ordered the injunction because he thinks he will ultimately find the ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
“Unfortunately, our history is littered with many forms of discrimination, including discrimination against women,” he wrote. “As the barriers have come down, one by one, some people were made uncomfortable. In our system, however, the Constitutional prevails over popular sentiment.”
Fort Collins City attorney Carrie Daggett issued a statement Wednesday, in which she said the city would no longer cite women for exposing their breast in public, pending a final decision in the case.
From the Coloradoan:
“While the judge has acknowledged the other cases upholding similar laws, he concluded he is likely to find the city’s restriction on female toplessness in public is based on an impermissible gender stereotype that results in a form of gender-based discrimination. The city is reviewing the judge’s decision in this case and city legal, policy and enforcement staff will be considering the city’s options for next steps in light of the order.”
— RT America (@RT_America) March 1, 2016
Plaintiff Brit Hoagland said the preliminary injunction is a “historic victory.”
Hoagland said the fight over the topless ban was not as important as the fight over the right to vote for other current social justice issues that the injunction granted privileges to women that men had all along.
“It’s a huge relief,” Hoagland said. “It is definitely a big win.”